Perception is reality. Any beer drinker who is surprised that Guinness has a unique and excellent taste and PBR tastes exactly like Budweiser needs to switch to Guinness because your taste is objectively awful.
That’s why Guinness’ branding is a seal with a ball and Budweiser needs to use bikini babes.
There’s something much deeper going on here, though: a fundamental problem with utility theory and hence, with economic theory. Kahneman & Tversky pointed out that it’s wrong to think of preferences as being read off of a master list. But not only are they constructed in the elicitation process, they’re constructed before as well. You’re looking at experimental proof.
I tried to write about this before in the context of the famous Pepsi/Coke fMRI experiment, but it’s too hard. I want to tie in sardonic Don Draper quips, the invention of diamonds, and my own experiences of my desires and wants and dreams being formed by outside (and therefore, sinister?) forces rather than from truly “within me” — whatever that might mean. Why do I want what I (think I) want? Even Doug Hofstadter treads tenderly around the topics of free will and one’s own true desires and self-determination and such.
I have no idea what my subconscious wants— Cameron Guthire (@thiscameron)
Even though I feel that these things all belong together, I don’t understand it all well enough to put forward a thesis explaining the inchoatia. But even with just the few experimental examples we have, it’s clear that desires can be manufactured, and that there’s a lot of money to be made in doing so. So just with that basic knowledge the Lagrangian model of utility that underlies all of the Edgeworth boxes, welfare theorems, and so on is missing a crucial quality. Namely, &sym;1% of the global economy is spent on making people want things. That doesn’t bear on “utilitarian” products like oil, shipping, … but it definitely bears on aspiration and retail. I’m talking about circularity in the definition of value. If you can logic that one out, let us know.